It’s tax time. I stand before my computer with an expensive plastic disc and inhale deeply, composing myself. The computer rips the disc from my hand and stares at me as though it were King Arthur and I was just an old stone with a hole in it.
The tax software is designed to be soothing. It’s chatty. Hey there! We’re just going to ask you a few questions. Let’s get started!
All righty then.
First we need to know a little about your living arrangements. Did Mary and David live together?
I don’t know that it’s any of your business, but yes.
Do you have any straddles to report?
Now you’re getting personal.
Oh, I’ve seen this movie before. The prosecutor approaches the lady on the witness stand and smiles:
“Hello there, Mrs. Crabtree. Are you comfortable? Would you like a pillow? A little tea, perhaps?”
Mrs. Crabtree says some tea would be nice. Tea is provided.
“Mrs. Crabtree, tell me–if you had it to do over, do you think you could beat your previous time for rendering Mr. Crabtree through the garbage disposal using only Drano and a lemon zester?”
Same dude works for TurboTax. He starts out cheerful. Let’s talk a little about your investment income!
Okay. We can try that.
Do you have any unearned capital-loss carryover limitations dividend consolidation peremptories as reported to you on a form 5129-C, AK-47, or PA 6-5000? Do not include passive debt spackling from any foreign source.
I have no freaking idea what the answers to some of the questions are. At first I try real hard to answer them correctly. After a while I choose whichever answer doesn’t lead me down a rabbit hole. If I say “yes,” I get a bunch more questions I can’t answer. If I say “no,” we magically move onto a different topic. I begin saying “no” a lot.
It’s not the paying of taxes that I mind. My government does a lot of things with our money that I’m not crazy about, but in general I’m okay with the system. I like the idea that we’re all banding together to do things we couldn’t accomplish as individuals. If I see a ballot measure that proposes to use public money to create an interpretive nature and history trail for underserved kids staffed by trained counselors in bunny suits and featuring a free lunch dispensary, petting zoo, and interactive educational kiosks powered by a solar array, I’m all sign me up! So it’s not the taxes. I just want them to slice me open with a quick knife and take the money. I don’t see why I have to get a tattoo needle and ink in all the little perforation lines and arrows on myself for the knife entry point.
I switch over to State Tax for the relief of it. State Tax is easy. With State Tax it’s just me, my income, and the big knife. I squint at the form. It says:
“Line 22. Do not complete Line 22.”
Whuh? Should I start Line 22 and then stop short of filling it in? If I were going to put something on Line 22, and promise to pull out at the last second, what would it be?
Dave had wisely gone out on one of his marathon walks. Three hours in I texted him that it was not yet safe to return home.
A few hours later he comes home anyway. By now I am past the anger stage that comes right after the feeling-stupid stage, and have edged past bargaining and into depression, characterized by snuffling and whimpering. “I need a beer,” I say. A beer is produced on the spot. Dave monitors its disappearance over the next minute and has a second ready to go. It seems to help.
Because now, I don’t care if I got the answers right. If they wanted the right answers, they’d have asked different questions. They could have asked me why leaves turn color in the fall, and I’d be all over that. I’m throwing myself on the mercy of the court. I did the best I could. Go ahead and audit me if you’re so damn smart. Maybe y’all owe ME money.